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Why inflation is hitting people in certain states harder

Posted at 4:36 PM, May 05, 2022

Inflation is hitting just about everyone, but some people are feeling it more than others.

Out of the 45 states with a sales tax, 13 of them impose it on groceries:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Virginia

The sales tax costs people in those states hundreds of dollars each year. Some states enforce the tax at a lower percentage. However, in Kansas, it is imposed at its full rate of 6.5%, the second-highest in the nation.
For Ivris Owens, a single mother of four, it means an extra $300 to $400 out of her pocket in grocery bills each year.

“You know, you go in [to the store] and you have a certain budget. You end up having to spend more or having to put stuff back and that’s embarrassing,” she said. “It’s very difficult because sometimes you might have to go without. There’s been times I’ve had to go without, and I never wanted my kids to feel that. I never wanted them to know of me struggling.”

Brian Walker is with the Kansas Food Bank. In March, it saw its need rise by 15% from the month before. He believes inflation at the grocery store is to blame.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the lowest 20% of earning Americans spend nearly twice as much on groceries each year, 10.7% of their incomes, as the highest 20% of earning Americans.

“Families that are struggling, they look for calories, they look for what’s the cheapest. And if you freed up some dollars, we could work with them on, although we don’t want to be the food police, but looking at healthier options,” said Walker. “If we can change that needle just some, we’re improving their lives.”

Since taking office, Kansas’ governor has proposed eliminating the grocery tax, but it has been a battle in the legislature. After months of back and forth, the state finally approved a measure that will cut the grocery tax to 4% next year. It will be phased out in 2025.

“It just breaks my heart to know that people are suffering and can’t get the food they need for their children and their families,” said Owens.